More dirt on organic church

One of themes going around the interwebs these days is this article: The dirt on organic.  It is the reflections of someone who started organic churches but ended up going back to being a pastor in a regular church.  Some of his points are:

  • The project wasn’t a smashing success because it didn’t continually multiply disciples and churches
  • It is impossible for someone to to lead a house church without getting paid
  • Smaller churches are often a bigger mess
  • Outreach can get ahead of leadership development, scaling back out reach doesn’t seem organic

Neil Cole has responded here

I have a few thoughts myself. 

Success in church life, even organic church life, isn’t the continual reproduction of new churches.  The call is to make disciples.  There will be an ebb and flow to this.  Sometimes you are spending a lot of your resources on binding the wounded or equipping the immature and less on finding more people to do the same thing with.  The idol of organizational success leads us to think that we are successful when we have lots of numbers to talk about.  Our first church in the SeedLife network went from 5 to around 20 in the first year, but has grown much slower since.  The reason?  We had all we could handle at the time.  I’ve needed time to learn and grow as a leader.  As things grow we have to figure out how to do things with more people involved.

I’m not a big fan of the pie in the sky rapid church multiplication goal.  It is too narrow and it isn’t consistent with even the best examples of sustainable church growth.  The early church and the church in China probably grew about 10% a year. 

Real ministry happens one person at a time, because we don’t have the capacity to love and deeply invest in 10 new people a year.  What really matters is God and His kids.  If have a group of 20 people and 5 of them are in real rough shape you have an opportunity to make a real difference.  If you skip over these people to find more you are skipping love and discipleship for organization success.

It is possible to lead a church a not get paid if you don’t overwhelm yourself with too many people or less effective complicated mediums of ministry.

I doubt smaller churches aren’t a bigger mess, they are often safe enough for people to let their mess show.  I must admit I am surprised at how broken church people can be and how much we are tempted to cover up that brokenness for the sake of appearances.

  1. #1 by Robert Kenneth Peter Kroeker on May 28, 2010 - 11:48 am

    I read all the articles you have listed. I feel like the guy “hit home” for me in a few areas. Getting paid would be nice. Having mature Christians around to help build leadership from within would be good.
    Tricia and I had an experience where we invited a bunch of our friends to go see the Passion of the Christ. Afterward we went for a meal, and then we talked about the movie. Then we invited everyone over for a meal a week later – hence a small group was formed. This continued for about 3 weeks.
    The problem was, all of our friends are naturally “high needs” people. Like us, they all had MAJOR issues in their life. We were a group of 10 people that blew up very quickly (Tricia and I couldn’t afford to keep feeding these people; we were just getting by ourselves, but these people had real needs).
    We sure could’ve used a few more stable Christians in our group – maybe even a pro. Something more mature anyways. And for evangelists like us, the discipleship idea very quickly gets overwhelmed by the natural connection with new people (and I don’t see this as inferior to discipleship, nor as being insensitive to people. This is our gifting, and we’re just going with what is most natural – which is why I’m not in any administrative role).
    We found more success in the town I grew up in (of all places). Here was a bastion of spiritual maturity. Tricia and I became “gateways” for traditional Christians to use their giftings to bless “outsiders”. Tricia and I are natural outsiders so we connected really well with all the outsiders in our town (5-10 people? lol). The problem here though was that the balance was still way favoured to the traditional church model. If we weren’t eventually trying to get people into one of the 3 churches in town, then maybe we were competing with them. If that was the case, then all the resources (strong, stable mature Christians) would dry up too. We already knew what would happen in that case, so at best, we were a “ministry”. I like to think maybe we were going to one church (and getting involved in that paradigm), and trying to BE the church with those on the outside as well. We couldn’t really plant a church. We found it very frustrating.
    Now, we’re back in the craziness up north. There is a charismatic church presence here, so we’re trying to work with the “establishment”. At the same time, we are naturally using our gifts too and outsiders are connecting with us. However, the organic church problems still remain. Do I need to quit my job, pretend I’m a “discipler” or “pastor” and organically grow these people? What about my natural giftings? Is God going to bring some more mature Christians to come along and support our giftings? If people only know church as “a building” or “being charismatic”, how do they wrap their minds around organic church? How many years and how many mature Christian leaders does it take to grow an “outsider” into a new kind of “insider” – which is still church culture in a new form anyways? I think maybe a group of established church type people should come up here with me, and I’ll give them TONS of opportunities to use their natural giftings in an outsider setting. Where is organic church in my context?
    The questions don’t end for me – Blessings

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